Is your child standing holding on to the surface with both hands, maybe even cruising…but will not let go and attempt independent standing? Not to worry, I have some simple ideas to encourage independent standing, building static and dynamic balance to ease the transition to ambulation!
Motor Learning occurs in stages and builds upon previously acquired skills. Standing occurs once child masters independent sitting and often times in conjunction with independent crawling. Once the child demonstrates the strength, balance and coordination needed for further milestones, we can assist their motor development in a healthy and helpful manner.
Intrinsic and extrinsic feedback are both essential in the development of each new skill. For standing, intrinsic feedback involves proprioception, utilizing the ground surface to push off for support, finding aligned neutral position, and engaging the necessary musculature to maintain balance. We can use massage to provide graded input to the foot. In addition gentle joint compressions to the ankle, knee and hip can help promote awareness of each lower extremity joint.
Encouraging barefoot navigation as much as possible, allowing child to weight bear on different tactile surfaces, will help activate and develop the intrinsic muscles of foot which comprise the arch, so integral to child’s ability to stand and walk independently!
- Pull to Stand: 7-9 months
- Stand at Support Surface : 8-10 months
- Stand Independently: 10-12 months
Tips to Encourage Independent Standing
Take the focus off your child and more on the toys or objects (in this case a beautiful duck we spotted in the park!) that are motivating. Instead of saying, “Stand up and look at this duck” try, “Wow, I see a duck, let’s go get a closer look!”
Offer Dynamic Support
Use therapy ball as dynamic support, which can be placed to side, in front or behind child. This is a great way to decrease dependence on adult for external support and develop a better sense of body awareness as we target strength and stability.
Find a song that your child likes and have a “dance party”. Once your child sees you standing and bouncing to the beat, encourage them to join the fun. A good cadence can help encourage knee flexion/extension (facilitating leg musculature activation), which is important for independent standing and walking. Let the child hold an egg shaker or tambourine so that their hands are busy and they let go of your support!
Keep things off the floor, using shelves or surfaces which allow placement of items at a height where child needs to stand and reach. A shape sorter is great for this activity. You can place the different shapes at different levels to encourage squatting and standing!
Mix It Up
Change up the environment if you can; visit the park, the beach, friends/relatives houses, play spaces. It is important to generalize skills, new environments offer new challenges and new motivations!
Bring a Friend
Use one on one peer modeling (with peer who is standing/walking). Allow child the opportunity to watch and engage with peer. Passing a soft ball back and forth can be a great motivator for standing! This is also a great way to incorporate hand eye coordination skills!
Make your own basketball game using different objects to throw into receptacle (held higher to encourage standing). Think outside the box, for example throwing rolled up socks into laundry basket! This basketball hoop is a big hit in our house!
Using two different surfaces to create corner to build confidence in sustained standing. This helps promote greater trunk rotation and motor planning too!
Bouncing and weight shifting on a therapy ball is a fun way to build trunk strength and stability needed for standing and walking.
Encourage child to rise from sit to stand to build upon independence in transitional skills. This also serves to engage trunk and lower body musculature to prepare for standing.
Allow your child to experience different textures with lower body and feet. This provides children with the necessary intrinsic feedback their body needs. We love the sandbox for a great sensory experience, encouraging gross and fine motor development!
Go Baby Go!
Building confidence is half the battle, so be sure to allow for success in each activity and embrace your inner cheerleader! Motivate, encourage, participate!
Standing Red Flags
It is important to contact your Pediatrician or a Pediatric Physical Therapist if you notice the following between 12-15 months of age:
- Child is unable to bear weight through legs
- Child is unable to pull to stand or sustain standing for more than a brief moment
- Child demonstrates significant stiffness in standing
- Child pulls to stand using arms only, without engaging leg muscles
- Child demonstrates significant lean in standing, weight bearing mainly on one side
- Child is not making incremental progress in motor milestone acquisition
Pediatric Physical Therapists can offer activity suggestions, equipment ideas, and help to assess any underlying reasons for the developmental concerns you may have. No judgments, just helpful guidance await if you reach out to the right professional!
For More Ideas to Encourage Independent Standing Read Toys to Encourage Standing!
For Future Milestones, read Teaching Children to Walk!
Learn more about Dinosaur Physical Therapy!